Bringing Things Into View: Strengthening Family Involvement
The beginning of the school year is a time to get to know our students. We prepare community-building activities and lessons to help students feel safe in their classrooms and school and lay the groundwork for them to build a strong sense of belonging and significance. Knowing our students’ families and including them in the school community is an important component of student success. Working together as a school community can help strengthen families’ involvement in school and give families a view into the daily life of their student.
As a school leader, I am always working with our teachers and families to find new ways to engage everyone in our community. In the past five years, we have heard families say they are grateful for the inclusive approach we have taken as a school. Here are just a few of the things we have tried. Try out some of these ideas to watch how the excitement around learning can grow in your community:
- Weekly emails
A schoolwide weekly newsletter or email that is sent to families digitally can provide a quick glimpse into what is happening in the school community. It is a chance to highlight learning that is happening, introduce staff in mini-interviews, and share information about what is coming up in school. Each week we try to highlight one or two classrooms. This creates excitement for everyone and gives families ideas about what to talk to their children about when they get home from school. Try adding a question parents can ask their child, such as “How did you show respect in school this week?”
- Interactive learning celebrations
Interactive learning celebrations are so much fun for students and families and can be done in person or virtually. Regardless of the format, celebrations give students an opportunity to show off their learning and families a chance to see what students are doing in the classroom. One example of an in-person learning celebration is a living museum. Students create a museum of their work on a topic and then become the docent and teach families about the topic. A virtual learning celebration could be to invite students and their families into the virtual classroom to hear samples of students’ writing. Regardless of the subject area, giving families a chance to celebrate students’ learning gives students an increased opportunity to show pride in their work.
- Welcome back party/picnic
At the beginning of each year, we make a strong effort to get families excited about the new school year by hosting a back-to-school picnic/concert. We invite everyone, including the families of students and staff, to bring their own picnic dinner and blankets and spend an evening together on our fields and playground. We provide ice pops and live entertainment such as a band or a local performance group. Family events are a fun and easy way to include families in what is happening at school.
- Family curriculum nights
Family curriculum nights can be an exciting way for students and families to experience learning together. Family curriculum nights can help families understand what is expected of students and give them insight into how to support their students at home. One of my personal favorite family curriculum night activities is a reading “campout” in which I invite students and a family member to dress in their pajamas and bring a blanket, a flashlight, and a book for an evening event. During the campout, I will have a few staff members show up to do a guest appearance read-aloud. A math game night is another great way to engage families. When we invite families to learn these games and play them with their children, they can see the fun created in the classroom and even learn a new way to support their child at home.
Getting families involved and giving them a sneak peek into the classroom and school will give students a sense that we are all working together to cheer them on to be the best they can be!
Written by Allyson Story, Responsive Classroom Consulting Teacher